There's no live cricket to watch, but we're scouring every corner of YouTube to make up for it. This week in What We're Watching, a non-linear montage of Pakistan cricket in the last few decades of the 20th century
Waqar announces himself
Thank you, Kamran Wasti, for WhatsApping me the first link. Kamran is a repository and archive in human form of all things Pakistan cricket, especially from the '70s, '80s and '90s. He's the guy to go to for remembering the smallest detail of a match or a player's career. This video is bits of Waqar Younis in the 1990-91 home series against New Zealand, his official coming out as a phenomenon. With a moustache.
Globally, the series is recalled for ball-tampering but Kamran passed on the link with typical myth-busting instructions: "I doubt the new-ball strikes are because of ball-tampering... there is big seam movement because of the hard, pronounced seam… outswing (inswing to left-handed)." There's pace and bounce too, as well as - already - changes in angle at delivery and action. In short, not just old-ball reverse (though there's plenty of that too).
Pandemonium in Perth
For creepy algorithmic reasons, that link led me to the highlights of an ODI between Pakistan and West Indies in Perth, part of a quadrangular event in 1986-87. It's creepy because why and how does YouTube know that these exact highlights are the ones I watched the most in the summer of 1987? So much that not only do I remember commentary ("I'm 6'6", I can't get any higher," says Bill Lawry of Courtney Walsh) or Qasim Umar kissing his edge, or Viv's jive-walk back after a catch, I wore the tape out.
It's a great game, and is a lesser-known entry into the haal of fame (geddit?). Pakistan struggle to 199, and West Indies coast to 105 for 2 before a comedy run-out, and boom, before you know it, West Indies are letting Shoaib Mohammad and Mudassar Nazar share five wickets and it's over.
The seesawing '70s at Sabina
A decade before that, the same sides played out a lively, much-remembered but little-seen series. Forty-three minutes' worth of footage from the last Test in Jamaica has found its way to YouTube, although, going by the difference in broadcast quality of the two games, the gap feels like a century.
The series is a poster child for the era: unbuttoned shirts, fast-scoring batsmen (Asif Iqbal brings up his hundred off 119 balls; the lowest innings run rate in this Test was 3.5, the highest 4.27), faster bowlers, and lots of bouncers. As an accompaniment, it's worth reading Simon Wilde's Let it Rip, which chronicles these bouncer wars so well.
As a nerdy side note, check out Joel Garner's slower ball around the 32-minute mark: they existed even back then. The disguise is so bad, it's clear, even with footage of this quality, that he slows his arm down in release. Otherwise, a very Pakistan chase: losing wickets at critical moments, raising hopes, puncturing it. Consolation: Wasim Raja swag.
Dashing legspinning allrounder porn, part 1
As we're on Raja's swag, a personal algorithm brings up this from Adelaide, 1981. This is Pakistan's first ODI win over West Indies, after eight successive losses (many of them close, mind you). This is another bit of haal: West Indies 85 for 3, with Clive Lloyd going strong on 28 when he sweeps Ijaz Faqih, only for Tahir Naqqash to take an outstanding catch. It's Faqih's first ODI wicket and it turns the game.
But we're watching this for Raja's legspin, and who does it remind you of? The speed, the hustle, the trajectories, the way batsmen can't figure out something very basic about it, and even glimpses of the action, it's all quite Shahid Afridi.
Stray observation: note the development of Imran Khan's action as a trilogy, from 1977 through 1981 to 1987.
Dashing legspinning allrounder porn, part 2
Which brings us to the great man himself - Afridi, that is, not Imran. This is from his Test debut, when, not for the first time and definitely not the last, he would do exactly what you didn't think he could do, or was picked for.
Afridi was selected as an opener and ended up with a debut five-fer. All five of his wickets are here but, let's be honest, the second one on loop would suffice. Steve Waugh, second ball, plumb to the faster ball. Legspin? As with everything about Afridi's cricket, yes, but not as you know it.
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